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Software development effort estimates are frequently too low, which may lead to poor project plans and project failures. One reason for this bias seems to be that the effort estimates produced by software developers are affected by information that has no relevance for the actual use of effort. We attempted to acquire a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms and the robustness of this type of estimation bias. For this purpose, we hired 374 software developers working in outsourcing companies to participate in a set of three experiments. The experiments examined the connection between estimation bias and developer dimensions: self-construal (how one sees oneself), thinking style, nationality, experience, skill, education, sex, and organizational role. We found that estimation bias was present along most of the studied dimensions. The most interesting finding may be that the estimation bias increased significantly with higher levels of interdependence, i.e., with stronger emphasis on connectedness, social context, and relationships. We propose that this connection may be enabled by an activation of one's self-construal when engaging in effort estimation, and a connection between a more interdependent self-construal and increased search for indirect messages, lower ability to ignore irrelevant context, and a stronger emphasis on socially desirable responses.
Date of Publication: May-June 2012